The Stowe Nordic Crosscut Classic 10km was held Sunday, January 5, 2020. The race returned after taking last year off due to US Senior National's being hosted by Craftsbury in 2019. Those in attendance were treated with a great event to kick off the New Year.
Registration holdouts were pleased with wintery conditions. Fresh snow lined the trees and coated the ground in the picturesque mountain setting. The day started early, with cars lined up for nearly a mile to get into the event. Perhaps a few were heading to the mountain for a powder day, but as we pulled into the touring center, the lot was full, and parking was a challenge. We wanted to park trailside to set up the wax bench but were redirected to the premium parking as the overflow lot was reserved for the Mountain Employees arriving and departing by the busload.
Registration was still being set up, so we began testing wax. Initial tests were inconclusive as the skis were behaving in ways that ran the full spectrum of possibilities. We also had in mind that icing up bad could happen as well. Once the trail got skied in a little bit, things began to normalize. We were able to rule out a couple of options in the Violet range as they added no benefit. Extra Blue was working as well as the wide-ranging ToKo Red. Some fancier stuff like the Rode WC Test -1_-7 was a winner for many. This was in line with the NWVE Wax Prediction, and it was also found that a final layer of Guru Blue provided the perfect shell for those that wanted to speed their skis up even more. Being the first race for many this season, a few tinkered with their wax pocket, otherwise, people seemed ready to go when calls for the start began.
Conditions were a soft packed track of fresh snow on top of a thin but firm base. Temperatures were in the low twenties and dropping. It was windy and snowing steadily. The course was not too technical with a flat start-finish stadium and a gradual climb to the loop. The race loop was primarily uphill for a mile then a thrilling downhill for the return. Once the racers completed the circuit twice, they returned to the stadium to finish. Most of the course was very stride-able, except for a short steep hill to the lap area.
The order was determined by alphabetizing the preregistered participants and then going first-come-first-serve for those signing up the day-of. Manny Betz (NWVE) had the honor of leading out the race. After 30 seconds, Perry Bland (NWVE) was on course. I followed with Jessica Bolduc (NWVE), chasing me. It was not until the 5th starter Elissa Bradley (Ford Sayre) that the Northwest Vermont streak was broken, speaking to the presence of the club at this race, or at least our confidence in pre-registration. Needless to say, there were a lot of blue uniforms out there today! Manny had the task of breaking the trail. While many had skied the whole thing for a warm-up, the falling snow coated the tracks. Perry started conservatively, which I did not. I caught him early, realizing soon after I was not going to be able to maintain the pace. Jessica opted in for more kick and out of the shell that made the skis faster, keeping a steady pace over the course. Patrick Cafferky (NWVE) and Mariah Cleveland (Ford Sayre) rounded out the first starters. Clearly, these racers were at an incredible disadvantage packing the trail for the rest of the field. Patrick overcame an early mishap at the start before setting out for a solid race. As these heroic racers completed their act of mercy, making the tracks fast, the rest of the field commenced.
Charlie Cobb (Mansfield) raced through the beleaguered track setters reaching the front by the top of the hill. Upon turning to take the downhill, he was faced with some slow conditions as my boards ran up on his as well as a GMVS skier who also slipped by with him at the crest of the hill. It was a first for me to catch a GMVS skier on a downhill. On his second lap, Eli Enman (NWVE) connected with Chris Burnham (NWVE), who had just started. Eric Darling (NWVE), who had also been caught skied strong up the hill keeping his teammates in sight as they weaved through the field. While icing was a concern, most skis were quite free; however, a rare leaf in the track was noticeable debris that caused skis to lunge. Eli hit one of these halfway up the main climb causing him to stumble. With the track so soft, it was easy for skis to stray as Eric noted on the climbs. One who did not have this problem was John Brodhead (Craftsbury), who bolted up the steepest hill to the lap area seemingly with ease. Gina Campoli (Craftsbury) knew it was bound to happen and let him by.
Ed Hamilton (NWVE) had a good race against Sara Graves (Stowe Nordic) as he closed on her over the course. Tyler Magnan (NWVE) was also in the chase watching Ed as he moved through the field. Tyler eventually snuck by Ed, but neither could catch Sara on the downhill. Both had taken time out of her, but her skis were fast closing on the finish line. Kyle Darling (NWVE) chased down Patrick on the first lap and then set his sights on Jessica on the second. After passing Jessica on the second time up the climb, he distracted some skiers with his energy conservation efforts. The "Kyle Style" was both contagious and effective as those he passed adopted the technique. While some were compelled to join Kyle, one guy was not. Tom Thurston (NWVE) worked his way through this group of skiers on a mission to pass as many people as he could from his midfield start knowing that the person known as “Ava’s Dad’s training partner” was starting last and would be doing the same. A.K.A Neal Graves (Stowe Nordic) seemed to be not bothered by his directing duties as he completed the race without skipping a beat.
Jake Hollenbach (NWVE) had put in a full 40 minutes of classic skiing to prepare for this race. He skied well, but it was not until the later stages of the race that he found some company with Stephen Wright (NWVE). Sarah Pribram was in the middle of this mix having started right behind Tyler and Nate Laber (GMVS), she had her work cut out for her to catch anyone. She did and like Jake got to ski a bit with Stephen. Stephen was quite happy with his ski. Being advised to not bring your A skis, Stephen opted for some old Fischers that have not gotten much love recently. Eric D. and I also used a pair of the same vintage, and all agreed that they were quite good and were reminded to give them more time in the race rotation. James Donegan (NWVE) was one of the last registrants but had to hurry back to help his daughter Ruby get ready for her race. He had a lot of company racing with some experienced skiers such as, Jim Fredericks (Mansfield), Leigh Mallory (NWVE), and John Lazenby (Onion River) who were facing off against each other yet again. James raced through in good time as all of these guys were moving. John's skis were particularly good on the long downhill, where he was holding off a couple of young hot-shots in the field. Leigh was also happy as his daughter Erin Bahrenburg (NWVE) raced, and his wife Joanie volunteered to make it a family affair.
NWVE had a strong presence throughout the results page, including Chris Burnham's overall! It was an excellent showing for the club and should set the stage well for next weekend's Classics and club favorites, the Race to the Cabin and the Bogburn! It should be interesting as Dublin XC has done some recruiting and had a strong turnout for the Gunstock Race. Great job to everyone who participated and/or supported this race. A special thanks goes to Stowe Nordic, who did an outstanding job pulling this event together at a venue that has had a rough start to the season. Their expertise shined today!